Hyperforma: Building Games with 2D and 3D Elements

Hyperforma: Building Games with 2D and 3D Elements

Fedor Danilov from Nord Unit talked about the studio's first game Hyperforma, a sci-fi arcade game inspired by cyberpunk literature and manga Blame! by Tsutomu Nihei.

Introduction

Nord Unit consists of 3 members: Fedor Danilov, Denis Dorohov, and Dmitry Konarev. Hyperforma is our first project.

Denis and I (Fedor) used to be web and graphic designers. Once, when we had an Open House Day at our studio, we met a student with enthusiasm in his eyes who was eager to make games. That was our Dmitry. After that day, we decided to spend a couple of months to make a simple game. That how Hyperforma began.

About Hyperforma & Its Mechanics

The first prototype of the game we made was a kind of inverted arcade: it was a ball flying across the screen, while a player was rotating a form in the center of the screen and controlling its bounces. The idea seemed to be interesting and we got down to the development. We prepared a few concepts and opted for a cyberpunk setting with security hacking gameplay. 

Hyperforma is a puzzle arcade game in a sci-fi setting, where a player is traveling across an old abandoned Net to hack it. Hyperforma is one of those games, which gameplay is hard to explain without trying it. At first glimpse, it may seem to be a bit complicated. 

The game combines 2D and 3D. 

The core gameplay is based on a classic pong mechanic: a ball (in fact, it is a little protagonist) is flying across the screen and breaking the objects. 

Here comes the interesting part - the main aim is a 3D object at the center of the scene. What is more, a player can rotate the form to choose the best place to attack or to avoid some dangerous objects. Not bad, huh? In practice, it's a lot easier than it sounds.

So, the main goal of the player is to destroy the aim at the center of each level. By doing that, you hack a part of the cybersecurity of the main boss. The game is divided into chapters, each of which has a unique boss and gameplay. This motivates a player to analyze the enemy and find the best approach to kill it.

Hyperforma is also can be called an action RPG. 

As we gain experience and upgrade the abilities of the protagonist, the player is given the freedom to create different tactics for walking through the levels. 

Each chapter ends with a boss fight. It is the second type of gameplay - Bullet Hell. We are moving in circles, dodge enemy attacks and fight back.

Not only is cyberpunk our favorite type of setting, but it turned out to be an ideal fit for the core mechanic of the game. One day it hit me. I realized that our game closely reflects a scene from William Gibson’s novels. A small hero fighting against huge cubes of data structures. 

Then followed the idea to change the way we look at cyberpunk and make an epic story without digging into the cyberpunk terms and a focus on a fight between hackers and corporations. 

Denis and I had been working at the different concepts for enemies and backgrounds, when I thought up a few simple and mysterious main characters: Oracle, Defender, Warrior, Ghost, and others. 

After drawing the concepts for these characters and backgrounds, I got down to their detalization. There were no 3D modelers in our small team, instead, we had a solid experience in vector graphics. That is why all the art was made in a vector graphics editor and imported into the game via SVG Importer. It is one of the key features of our art. Vector art can be animated partially and scaled without losing quality. SVG Importer was used to implement such vector elements as art for Defenders, interfaces and so on.

The game was made with Unity, we had begun the development in the 5th version. 

Inspiration

I did my best to create a unique gloomy atmosphere of long-abandoned cyberspaces and huge AIs inhabiting them. One of my sources of inspiration was a manga called Blame! by Tsutomu Nihei. I read it a few years ago and was impressed by its atmosphere.  

The game was also influenced by a few cyberpunk books (both classical and modern):

 

The first novel is full of detailed action scenes: huge databases, attacked by ICE breakers. It occurred to me - that’s exactly what our game is about - a tiny hero breaking huge cubes!

Roughly speaking, the second novel is about the AI after it got freedom. It split into a few entities, who proclaimed themselves Voodoo gods - a topic that influenced the design of such characters as Princess and Mother.

 

Somewhere in the 5th part of Hyperion, there is a scene where characters connect to TechnoCentre, dive into cyberspace and talk to the vast Ultimate Intelligence. It inspired me to show a dialogue between a small and big entity. 

  • Novels by a crazy dude Peter Watts, a former marine-mammal biologist

 

Being cut off from his laboratory, he feels quite helpless without its tools. In his books, he describes the technologies and inner worlds of cyborgs. They are people who lost a part of their humanity to enhance their bodies by connecting themselves to webs, machines, laboratories, etc.

That was the thing that influenced the plot and description of the characters from the past. 

 

I can’t exactly remember why it got into the list but why not.

 

An awesome manga, that affected me to a great extent and had an influence on a visual style of the game. The manga is about a vast abandoned post-singular City (in fact, it is a factory of the size of Earth), where there's a lonely hero who travels looking for something inexplicable.

 

In general, the concept of the project was formed during the creation of the first chapter. It only remained for me to scale the art and add more details to make it appropriate for large screens.

Interface & Sound Design

Two more key components of the game are the interface and sound design.

The interface is an important part of user experience. Mostly, it was Denis who was mastering it. We tried to make it user-friendly and futuristic, complementing the core art of the game.

The second important part of Hyperforma is music and sounds. At that stage, we invited two electronic musicians - CUTglitch and Pixelord. CUTglitch also composed the soundtrack.

Challenges

Since it was our first experience in game development, we faced a lot of challenges:

  • We had to start the project from scratch twice.
  • Once, when we switched to a new version of Unity, all the physics in the project got broken.
  • We couldn’t stop adding new features.
  • Many other problems that taught us how to learn from mistakes.

Two-Player Mode

The game improved by two-player mode is also available on Switch. Everyone knows that playing together is twice cooler. 

The thing was that we did not have a vision of what gameplay would fit the multiplayer. We had to try different ways. We had been making prototypes of the coop and high score modes until opted for an out-of-the-box idea: why not let the Form defend itself?

So, we divided the control between two players and added a few new features. As a result, we got a PvP mode where one player controls the character, trying to destroy the core, while the second player rotates the form and activates the traps to kill the breacher. What it really reminds is fighting. Check it out, it is funny!

Basically, there were no serious problems at this stage, except perhaps testing of all possible variants of console modes.

Fedor Danilov, Nord Unit Co-Founder

Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev

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    Hyperforma: Building Games with 2D and 3D Elements